Violent Behavior Among Girls in Violent Contexts: Results From the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods

Beth Molnar, Harvard Univ. School of Public Health
Angela Browne, Harvard School of Public Health
Dawn Obeidallah-Davis, Abt Associates
Stephen Buka, Harvard School of Public Health

ABSTRACT
Although there is a large literature on the etiology of violent behavior among adolescent boys, there are relatively few studies of the development of violent behavior among girls 18 years and younger. None have taken a multi-level approach to study the influence of violence exposure at community and family levels. This study is a multi-level, prospective investigation of the prevalence and etiology of violent behavior among 1202 girls, ages 12-18 at baseline, participating in the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. The sample is diverse with respect to race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, residing in 80 distinct Chicago neighborhoods. Two in-home interviews were conducted approximately 24 months apart with girls and their caregivers, and comprehensive community-level data were collected in their neighborhoods. Data from a qualitative study of girls' violent behavior among a sub-sample of the cohort (n=61) will also be presented. At baseline, 38.0% of the sample reported engaging in one or more violent behaviors in the past year. Approximately one-fourth of the sample (28.1%) reported engaging in the same behaviors at follow-up. A linear scale of girls' violent behavior was created using Rasch Modeling, a method of Item Response Theory. The scale consists of 6 violent behaviors, takes into account the frequency and severity of items, and has acceptable psychometric properties. Our preliminary findings show that girls report perpetrating more violent behavior in families where there is violence between parents, and child physical abuse. Girls also report perpetrating more violent behavior if they live in disadvantaged and/or violent neighborhoods. Hierarchical linear modeling will be used to investigate the effects of individual, family, and neighborhood factors on violent behavior. Multivariate, multilevel models will be presented that bring community and family violence, socioeconomic disadvantage, and other family and individual characteristics together to assess their relative contribution to the development and perpetration of violent behavior by adolescent girls.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006